How to speed test your internet connection

Want to know how fast your internet connection is?

Performing a speed test is actually pretty easy, but do you know what the results mean? Learn what to look for when performing a speed test. If you understand the results, you’ll know what action you need to take.

Download and Upload Speeds

In order to comprehend the meaning of internet speeds, you’ll first need to understand that there are two main types of speed that all internet packages have. These are download speeds and upload speeds, and both of them are equally important when it comes to operating a business.

Download speed is the rate at which data is transferred from the internet to your device, and it dictates how quickly webpages load, how smoothly videos stream, and at what pace files are downloaded.

Upload speed is the rate at which data is transferred from your device to the internet. For applications like real-time video conferencing, uploading data to a server and attaching large files to outgoing e-mails, you need decent upload speeds, no matter how fast your download speed is. Upload speeds ultimately dictate how quickly you can upload documents to the cloud or a video to your website, which is extremely important in a fast-paced modern working world, and the quality of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calls to the person you are talking to. Upload speeds might not be particularly important to many home internet users because the majority of them download far more than they upload; there is no doubt that they are essential to businesses.

The Truth About Internet Speeds

Besides download and upload speeds, every internet package offers two types of speeds measured in megabits per second (Mbps). The first is the maximum speed - or “up to” speed - which is what your internet service provider (ISP) advertises it is capable of delivering under optimal conditions. The second is the actual speed, which is likely to be lower due to a variety of factors affecting performance, including:

  • Traffic: During peak times when more people are using the internet, such as evenings and weekends, overall speeds are likely to be slower.
  • Local traffic: If you have cable internet, you share bandwidth with other cable internet customers nearby. If someone is using a lot of bandwidth, such as by uploading large files or streaming films in high-definition (HD), your connection's performance may suffer.
  • Server issues: A website will be slow no matter how fast your actual speeds are if a particular website you are trying to use is located on a server with a slow connection, in an area where traffic is currently heavy, or the server it is on is experiencing problems such as overloading because too many people are trying to access the same server at once.
  • Throttling: If you use all the data your internet package allows you to use in a certain period of time, your ISP may temporarily throttle your speed as a penalty; ensure your provider offers unlimited usage to avoid this.. You could also have your speed throttled as a result of traffic management, which is what ISPs apply if particular customers are using a very large amount of data at peak times, slowing their network down.

Preparing For A Speed Test

To get an accurate read of your internet speeds, it is important to prepare your computer, tablet or whichever device you are going to conduct the test through. Close any programs that use your internet connection because if you are downloading or uploading when you test your connection, you will not get accurate results.

If you are running a speed test on a business internet connection, do so outside office hours when none of your colleagues are likely to be using the internet. As much as possible, ensure that no other device or application is accessing the internet before you start.

Testing Your Speeds

To find out how fast your internet connection is, conduct an online speed test. Open your web browser and go to a website that offers free testing, such as In just a few minutes, you will have a reading of your actual internet speeds, and if you minimized your online activity before conducting the test, these should be accurate.

Interpreting The Results

The first thing you should do with your speed test results is to compare them with the ‘up to’ speeds your ISP advertises your package as offering. If your speed tests results are significantly lower, contact your ISP to troubleshoot the problem.

Next, compare your actual download speed with the following examples to see what you can realistically do with your internet connection:

Less than 4Mbps: The lowest level of service, adequate for web browsing, email and streaming music.

4-6Mbps: The minimum speed required for streaming video.

6-10Mbps: The preferred speed for streaming HD video

10-15Mbps: Websites and online applications noticeably faster.

15-50Mbps: Ideal for those with multiple devices using one connection, such as small businesses.

50+Mbps: Supports video conferencing and real-time data collection, ideal for corporate use.

Then compare your actual upload speed with these examples to see what you can expect from it:

Less than 1Mbps: You can make VoIP calls, video calls and upload a 200-megabyte (MB) video in 30 minutes.

1-2MBps: HD video calls, video conferencing with up to three people.

2-4Mbps: Video conferencing with up to five people.

4-8Mbps: Video conferencing with seven-plus people.

8-10Mbps: Cloud services noticeably quicker, video conferencing for up to ten people.

16+Mbps: Upload a 200MB video in two minutes, set up a small server.

Conducting a speed test enables you to benchmark your internet service and give you a realistic picture of the actual speeds you are getting from your ISP. If you are getting speeds significantly lower those advertised, contact technical support to find out why. If the speeds you are getting are not far off those advertised but you still feel like your connection is lagging, it may be time to consider an upgrade to a dedicated internet connection; a fast, efficient, reliable internet connection can make a big difference to any business.